Martin, Navarrete score TKO wins in Wilder-Fury II undercard

  • 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism
  • boxing writer since 2005
  • Five years at USA Today

LAS VEGAS — Former heavyweight world titlist Charles Martin took a big step toward getting another opportunity to fight for a belt.

Martin scored a one-punch, sixth-round knockout of Gerald Washington in a world title elimination bout on Saturday night, the co-feature of the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury II card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“This win means a lot. It shows that I’ve been working hard,” Martin said. “The people can see it. I was never hurt at any point. This has just given me more confidence in myself. I can take the punches and give the punches.”

St. Louis native Martin (28-2-1, 25 KOs), a 33-year-old southpaw fighting out of Las Vegas, moved a step closer to an eventual mandatory fight with three-belt titleholder Anthony Joshua by winning the IBF-sanctioned eliminator for No. 2 in its rankings. Joshua knocked Martin out in the second round of a fight in 2016 to take his world title

Martin and Washington, a former world title challenger, have known each other for years and have sparred often. They fought at a measured pace with each man pawing his jab and occasionally landing a power shot in a very slow-paced fight. Martin drew some cheers late in the fourth round when he got through with a right hand that tagged Washington, who quickly fired back. In the fifth round, Martin drove Washington (20-4-1, 13 KOs), 37, of Vallejo, California, into the ropes with a right hand, but not much was happening.

In the sixth round Martin, who had predicted a fourth-round knockout victory, landed a powerful overhand left on Washington’s mouth to knock him down. Washington beat the count, but he was wobbling, and referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight at 1 minute, 57 seconds.

“I knew that I had him hurt a few times in the fight,” Martin said. “Every round I think I hurt him, but I just couldn’t finish him. I knew that I had to take my time in there. It took me some rounds to catch up with him, because he’s very quick on the retreat.”

Washington did not complain about the stoppage.

“The referee did what he thought was right,” Washington said. “He’s a top-notch ref so I won’t complain about the stoppage. He put me down and I got up, so I definitely wanted to get back to it.”

Navarrete knocks out Santisima, retains title

Junior featherweight world titlist Emanuel Navarrete didn’t do anything fancy and wasn’t all that exciting for the majority of the fight, but he turned in a workmanlike effort in a one-sided 11th-round knockout victory against Jeo Tupas Santisima to retain his 122-pound title.

“As I said during the build-up to the fight, I was coming for another knockout victory, and I got it,” Navarrete said through an interpreter. “It took me a little more time than expected. I hurt him a couple of times during the fight, but I got to give it to him; he is a real Filipino warrior. He took a lot of punches and didn’t go down.

“I hurt my right thumb trying to knock him out, but I knew I was close to stopping him, so I had to keep going.”

Navarrete was making the fifth defense of his junior featherweight belt — all in the past nine months, making him the most active current titlist in boxing.

“This is my fifth successful defense of the world title. Now I want a unification fight,” Navarrete said. “I’ll look at my options, but if I don’t get it soon, I’ll probably move to 126 pounds to challenge the champions at featherweight.”

Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs), 25, of Mexico, who had the longer reach, established his jab early to keep Santisima off balance while mixing in body shots and left hooks. He pressed forward, throwing combinations while Santisima covered up or threw one punch at a time.

Navarrete had a big fifth round as he landed right-left combinations almost at will. and he had Santisima trapped on the ropes for a large chunk of the round. Navarrete remained in total control with Santisima largely in survival mode during the latter stages of the fight.

Navarrete let his punches fly in the 10th round and appeared to have Santisima (19-3, 16 KOs), 23, of the Philippines, in trouble, but he could not put Santisima away. In the 11th round, Navarrete once again pounded on Santisima, and referee Russell Mora eventually stepped in to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 20 seconds — just as Santisima’s corner was throwing in the towel.

“Navarrete is a great champion, and I gave it my all to bring a world title back to the Philippines. I came up short, but I can hold my head high,” Santisima said.

Fundora wins lopsided decision vs. Lewis

In the opening fight of the Wilder-Fury 2 pay-per-view telecast, Premier Boxing Champions’ Sebastian Fundora outpointed the much smaller Daniel Lewis, who is with rival promoter Top Rank, in a bout between junior middleweight prospects. The judges had it 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93.

At 6-foot-6, Fundora (14-0-1, 9 KOs), 22, a southpaw from Coachella, California, is huge for the 154-pound division — hence his nickname of “Towering Inferno” — and he used that size to neutralize Lewis, who tried to get inside but had problems.

After a slow start they picked up the pace in a high-contact second round in which both landed solid shots.

“I always want to use my height and my physical gifts, but it just depends on the fight,” Fundora said. If the situation changes, we have to be ready to adapt.

Lewis (6-1, 4 KOs), 26, a 2016 Australian Olympian boxing in the United States for the second time, was able to get inside here and there and fire away but not enough, while Fundora regularly connected with uppercuts and straight left hands as the fight settled into a rhythm.

“I think it was a fair decision and a good fight. There were a lot of hard punches,” Fundora said. “I knew he would be tough. When they told me I was fighting an Olympian, I knew it would be a tough fight. He probably had more experience than me, but we prepared the right way and got the win.”

Molina outpoints Imam

Welterweight Javier Molina earned a mild upset over former junior welterweight world title challenger Amir Imam, outpointing him 79-73, 78-74 and 78-74. Molina, a 2008 U.S. Olympian, outboxed the more aggressive Imam.

Molina (22-2, 9 KOs), 30, of Norwalk, California, used his slicker skills to box and move, racking up points as Imam (22-3, 19 KOs), 29, of Albany, New York, had a hard time landing consistently flush punches.

“Amir was a tough opponent, but I knew I had the better jab,” Molina said. “The jab frustrated him and he was getting a little impatient, so I was able to counter him effectively. I am ready for a title eliminator or title shot next. I’m hitting my stride.”

There were some moments of back-and-forth action, including a stretch in the eighth round, but Molina kept the fight under control.

Imam, who lost a decision to Jose Ramirez for a vacant junior welterweight world title in March 2018, dropped to 1-1 since signing with Top Rank late last year after settling a lawsuit to break free from his promotional agreement with Don King.

Molina won his fifth fight in a row since a 10-round decision loss to Jamal James in January 2016.

Ananyan upsets Matias

Armenian junior welterweight Petros Ananyan pulled an upset as he knocked down and outfought Puerto Rico’s Subriel Matias, on his way to unanimous decision victory in a back-and-forth fight. The judges had it 96-93, 95-94 and 95-94 in Ananyan’s favor.

Matias staggered Ananyan with combinations in the sixth round and rocked him again with a right hand in the seventh round. Later in that seventh round, though, Ananyan stormed back and punished Matias with a series of right hands and a left hook that sent Matias staggering into the ropes. The ropes held Matias up, so referee Robert Byrd ruled it a knockdown.

Ananyan (15-2-2, 7 KOs), 31, now 2-2 in his past four fights, continued to get the better of the action in the final rounds, and he hurt Matias with more right hands in the 10th round.

The fight was Matias’ second since last July, when he knocked out then-unbeaten Maxim Dadashev in the 11th round of a world title elimination bout. Dadashev died a few days later from a brain injury suffered in the bout. Matias (15-1, 15 KOs), 27, returned to the ring on Nov. 30 in Puerto Rico and knocked out Jonathan Jose Eniz in the fifth round. After his recent signing with Premier Boxing Champions, this fight represented a step up to a much bigger stage for Matias.

Flores cruises past Conway

Junior lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr., one of Top Rank’s most promising prospects, scored a knockdown en route to a one-sided decision victory over Matt Conway. Two judges scored the fight 80-71, with the third scoring it 79-72.

Flores (17-0, 6 KOs), 19, of Stockton, California, dropped five-year professional Conway (17-2, 7 KOs), 24, of Pittsburgh, with a right hand in the first round and had no problems whatsoever as he cruised the rest of the way, although he did suffer a bruised hand in the sixth round.

Mielnicki routs Champion

Welterweight prospect Vito Mielnicki Jr., a 17-year-old high school senior, dropped Corey Champion and won a shutout decision, 40-34, 40-35, 40-35.

Mielnicki (5-0, 3 KOs), of Roseland, New Jersey, closed the first round by forcing Champion (1-3, 1 KO), 21, of Charlottesville, Virginia, to a corner and landing a four-punch combination to knock Champion down just as the round was ending. Mielnicki couldn’t get another knockdown, but otherwise laid a beating on Champion.

Lowe tops Guevara in foul-filled fight

Featherweight Isaac Lowe won a unanimous decision over Alberto Guevara in a foul-filled fight that included six points being deducted by referee Vic Drakulich. Lowe won 96-87, 96-87 and 95-88 to retain his regional belt.

In the third round, Drakulich docked one point from Guevara for excessive holding. In the fifth round, Drakulich took two points from Lowe, first for shoving Guevara to the mat, and then for hitting him behind the head.

In the sixth there was more fouling that caused Drakulich to take two points from Guevara for a low blow, and then a point from Lowe for shoving him to the mat.

Lowe (20-0-3, 6 KOs), 26, of England, a good friend of Fury’s, broke through in the eighth round, driving two-time bantamweight world title challenger Guevara (27-6, 12 KOs), of Mexico, to the mat for a knockdown.

Romero easily knocks out Ahmetovs

Lightweight Rolando Romero stopped Arturs Ahmetovs in the second round of their scheduled eight-round bout that opened the card.

Romero (11-0, 10 KOs), 24, of Las Vegas, a Mayweather Promotions prospect, extended his knockout streak to five fights in a row against Latvia native Ahmetovs (5-1, 2 KOs), 30, who fights out of Delray Beach, Florida.

Romero predicted a first-round knockout at the undercard news conference on Thursday and was not far off. In the second round Romero scored two knockdowns, and when he was teeing off on Ahmetovs during the follow-up attack, referee Robert Hoyle stepped in at 1 minute, 22 seconds.

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